The Foundations of American Nationality

By Evarts Boutell Greene | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
ENGLISH AND AMERICAN WAYS

"We hope to plant a nation
Where none before hath stood."

THESE lines, written by one of the Virginia pioneers, of 1610, perhaps express the feeling of his more thoughtful comrades, at a time when the fate of the young colony still hung in the balance. What kind of nation he was dreaming of one can only guess, but it was certainly nothing remotely resembling the American nation of the twentieth century. It is interesting, however, for the moment to place ourselves midway between these two points in time and see what elements of a new nationality can be traced after a century and a half of colonial development.

It must be remembered, first, that the thirteen colonies which were to become the nucleus of a new American nation were closely associated with other English provinces which have had quite a different history. To think of the "thirteen" as having a clear group consciousness, marking them off sharply from all other settlements and uniting them to each other, would be to read back into the past the thought of later generations. With the fishing stations of Newfoundland and the sugar islands of the West Indies, the continental colonies had relations too close to be broken without serious inconvenience. Politically also the mainland colonies had much in common with the West Indies. The constitutional controversies of Barbados and Jamaica were often much like those of the continental colonies. It is equally true that within the traditional group of thirteen there were sharp

The thirteen colonies and their neighbors.

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